Talks on illegal immigrants progress
By DENNIS ENGBARTH in Taipei
TAIWAN and mainland representatives reached partial agreement on airlifting old or physically weak illegal immigrants yesterday, but major differences remained after the first day of the latest round of unofficial talks in Xiamen.
The talks, focusing on substantial problems encountered in the growing intercourse between Taiwan and mainland China, are slated to continue until Sunday.
Hsu Hui-you, Deputy Secretary-General of Taipei's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), is leading the Taiwan delegation. His counterpart is Sun Yafun, Deputy Secretary-General of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS).
According to Taiwan news reports, the two sides reached consensus yesterday to mutually participate in the process of repatriation of illegal entrants, which is now being conducted primarily through their respective Red Cross groups.
The SEF and ARATS will each set up a special working group or office to deal with the issue.
The China Television Company reported that agreement was reached on airlifting elderly and physically weak people from Taiwan to Xiamen, via Hong Kong.
At present, people being repatriated from Taiwan are sent by sea to Matsu and then transferred onto Chinese landing craft for shuttle to Fuzhou.
But the two sides could not agree on 10 problems in the repatriation process, including the scope of people to be sent back, means to confirm their identities, the location of personnel exchange and responsibility for bearing expenses incurred in the repatriation process.
Mr Sun proposed that direct transfers take place between Fuzhou and Keelung and Hsinchu in Taiwan.
But the Taiwan delegation disagreed, primarily as it would constitute direct sea or air links between the two territories which is not yet permitted under Taiwan law.
The two sides also remained divided on how to repatriate people convicted of or suspected of major crimes and hijacking.
Meanwhile, Taiwanese premier Lien Chan said yesterday that improved ties with China would depend on the island gaining membership of the United Nations.
, which Beijing has firmly opposed.
''If we can join the United Nations, the UN and its affiliated bodies would provide channels for both sides to push forward their future relations under the principle of mutual interest, benefit and co-operation,'' Mr Lien told parliament.
Taiwanese membership of the UN ''would surely guide the future of the country onto a path of sincerity on which both sides would be winners''.